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Quit the It

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The fact that people tend to call non-human animals  ‘it’ –as if they are things- really bothers me and I feel personally offended for reasons that I’m not going to explain, nor discuss here.

Yes, I know that it’s deeply embedded in the English language (and many other languages have their equivalents) and I know that many people don’t even realize this or give it any second thought. Many people say it regardless of their love for non-human beings. And I know that many don’t mean it to be offensive, but if you give it a second thought, calling other animals than humans ‘it’ or ‘thing’ is not as harmless at it seems.

This way of addressing non-human animals causes a subconscious differentiation of humans vs other animals. I never hear humans call another human ‘it’ (except, strangely enough, their babies Oo) but I constantly hear them call other animals ‘it’ – often even when the GENDER IS KNOWN! Calling a male-lion with obvious mane or a male deer with obvious antlers ‘it’ is absolutely respectless and totally pointless. Why is there this objectification when someone’s gender IS visible? Even though the word ‘it’ is often not meant to be offensive, it is still very wrong to address a living, sentient being as an inanimate object. This subconscious objectification and differentiation increases the distance that people might feel between them and other animals. A distance that is biologically not there; because humans ARE animals and other animals –particularly mammals and birds- have a rich emotional life, just like humans. (see this article here: .  longreads.com/2019/03/12/i-can… Or read this book: www.amazon.com/Are-Smart-Enoug…

So WHY speak in dichotomy and distinction? Why speak of other sentient beings as if they are things? I think it is wrong and it takes very little effort to assess any other animal with ‘they’ instead of ‘it’ when their gender is unknown. And once you do it, you will feel the closeness and equality; it’s a good feeling.

One of my biologist friends said once “why should I separate myself from all the living beings that I love?” and he meant the imaginary wall that (modern) humans tend to build between them and other Life. Indeed, he had a good point. And one way to break this imaginary wall is to think consciously about the language and the way you speak respectfully about other animals as living beings and not as things. Because language shapes thinking and this language-forced distance-talking and objectification of other animals, in the worst case, opens up for abuse. If the language tells you to regard another animal as an object, then it’s only a small step to treat them as an object too.

That is why I strongly encourage you to think about this and try to quit the ‘it’ and quit calling other animals ‘things’.

Actually, I also find it off to call a plant ‘it’ since plants are very complex organisms – as complex as animals – and many trees are so old that ‘it’ feels like an insult too. But I haven’t really found a proper way to address plant-life…


 

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